That's just silly, says Vincent Pastore, who played a mobster on "The Sopranos." Pastore told 20/20, "Italian people are gangsters. That's like saying all black people are slaves. Italian people are gangsters? It's just bizarre."
Italian American actor/comedian Pat Cooper says, "The activists don't know what they're talking about."
Cooper played one of Robert De Niro's made men in the film "Analyze This" and says groups like Order Sons of Italy are wrong--mob movies don't make people think Italians are gangsters. He says Hollywood favors Italian gangsters "because we're better gangsters ... But that doesn't mean all Italians are gangsters and all Italians are bad, that's ridiculous."
OSIA's De Sanctis disagrees. "I have to say to people like Pat Cooper … 'I'm sorry, your portrayals are influencing public opinion.' "
De Sanctis points out "The popularity of a stereotype doesn't justify it ... Cowboy and Indian movies were wildly popular for generations. But that doesn't make the stereotype right."
Pat Cooper responds, "It's an art form, it's a movie! How come nobody comes over to me and says, 'You know, you're making fun of the Italians'? I say, we got a sense of humor, I'm so proud that I'm the first one to let people know we know how to laugh."
For more information, please refer to the sources below, who helped with research for this story:
Show business biographer James Robert Parish, author of "The Encyclopedia of Ethnic Groups in Hollywood" (jamesrobertparish.com).